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Can a Down Syndrome Man’s Death Teach Police How to Handle the Disabled?

“Ethan’s Hearing" implores Congress to get involved.

by
Bill Straub

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April 29, 2014 - 3:29 pm
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WASHINGTON – The mother of a Down syndrome man who died after being detained by off-duty law enforcement officers after a brief scuffle 15 months ago urged a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday to provide funding needed to train police in handling individuals with disabilities.

Patti Saylor, a nurse from Frederick, Md., told members of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights that the treatment accorded 26-year-old Ethan Saylor was “totally unnecessary” and expressed hope that the hearing before the panel, titled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety,” will save lives.

The session on law enforcement’s handling of individuals with disabilities, which became popularly known as “Ethan’s Hearing,” attracted so much attention that the hearing had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate the audience.

“Rest assured, we are committed to be tireless advocates for our beloved Ethan and all people with Down syndrome and other disabilities; and we will work with members of this subcommittee to ensure the necessary changes and policies are put in place to ensure what happened to Ethan never happens to another member of this community,” Saylor said.

Ethan Saylor died at the hands of three off-duty Frederick County, Md., sheriff’s deputies at a movie theater on Jan. 12, 2013, when the officers sought to remove him for failing to purchase a ticket to view the film Zero Dark Thirty for a second time.

The deputies were informed in advance that Saylor had Down syndrome, was sensitive to being touched and that his mother was en route to calm the situation. Regardless, the law enforcement officials chose to ignore the information and proceeded to wrest him from his seat. When Saylor resisted, the deputies forced him into a prone position and handcuffed his hands behind his back with three sets of handcuffs.

Saylor died in the theater. An autopsy showed his larynx was crushed while being restrained. Patti Saylor asserted that the manner in which her son was detained — hands behind his back and face down on his stomach – “has for years been considered excessive due to the chance of positional asphyxia.”

“While anyone, disability or not, could have been injured or killed in Ethan’s situation that evening, our family also remains deeply concerned that Ethan’s rights, as an individual with a disability, were violated,” she said.

Ethan Saylor’s death was ruled a homicide but the deputies were found faultless after a grand jury probe and returned to duty. Patti Saylor said she met with officials from the Department of Justice soon after her son’s death. She understands that an investigation is underway and anticipates a DOJ report in the near future.

“Ethan never posed any immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others,” she said. “The crime at issue was not severe. Ethan was sitting in a movie theater without a ticket and there were far less severe actions the officers could have taken. For example, they could have listened to advice from Ethan’s support staffer and allowed her to de-escalate the situation by entering the theater to assist and support Ethan. We also feel there was no consideration, on the part of the deputies, to the fact that Ethan had Down syndrome – a recognizable disability. We believe that the amount of force that was used on Ethan was not reasonable in light of the severity of the crime, the risk to the officers, the risk to Ethan and the risk to others in the theater.”

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
What a joke this hearing was, what a waste of time.
They do NOT need Federal Funding to "train" local officers in common effing sense.

Douche Bag Durban says "“Law enforcement did not ask for this additional challenge but it was forced upon them,”

Baloney. You go into Law Enforcement, you deal with the PUBLIC...And that means ALL of it, including people with dementia, the blind, the deaf, and those in the middle of diabetic shock, etc, etc, etc…

ALL OF WHOM have been recently shot, tasered, beaten and killed by “Law Enforcement” because these Pigs can no longer THINK.

40 years ago, a GOOD COP would have realized this person was “retarded”. A GOOD COP would have had pity for a grown “child” who could not comprehend the “trouble” he was causing by staying for a second show …

And to satisfy the Theater Managers complaint, a GOOD COP would have offered to pay for the extra ticket HIMSELF while waiting for the Mom to arrived.

His Common Sense and Wise Professionalism would have won out over any Juvenile sense of “Authority” boiling within him to avoid a CERTAIN, pointless, ugly public ruckus over a measly few dollars….

“Sir, if youre concerned about his potential behavior, would you be willing to let his mom stay and watch the rest of the show with him to keep him calm? Then she’ll take him home? Rather than dragging him out now? Would that work for you?”

“Ma’am, do you think he’ll be OK to get through the rest of the picture if you're here?”

And go from there. No Spectacle, no Loud Commands, no Force, no Violence.

In other words, a GOOD COP would have HANDLED IT …like a Pro, like a Responsible, Level Headed, Trustworthy and Wise Public Servant…

The kind we aren’t AFRAID to call, when we need a little help with an occasional “situation” that calls for a Voice of REASON as well as AUTHORITY.

But not any more.

Today, Cops = Death, over the most trivial of matters.

And they deserve nothing but contempt because of it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"train police in handling individuals with disabilities."

Meaning, training them how look at people as human and not like anyone who is not a cop is a criminal.

30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cops are nuts. It's all or nothing, all the time, and they have no second gear, no sense of defusing situations or using any powers of discrimination to enact judgments appropriate to the situation. Man doesn't buy movie ticket, lawlessness erupts, civilization falls. It's all very clear to a cop.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (35)
All Comments   (35)
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The people were far more upset about the cop shooting the family dog in front of the owners was caught on video
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
When I was 25, I was driving my 96-year-old grandfather home from a doctor's appointment. I was forced to hurry and to go five miles over the posted speed limit because the old man desperately had reach a bathroom. I was pulled over by "law enforcement" just feet from an available restroom at a fast food restaurant. I calmly, briefly and respectfully explained the situation; the cop told me to "shut up" and took his sweet time writing the ticket. My grandfather had explosive diarrhea in the car. The cop returned, saw the problem, laughed, and said "It's your mess not mine," and leisurely hopped on his motorcycle and left. My 96-year-old grandfather, who had fought in WW1 looked at me and said, "He'll make a rotten old man, if he makes it." And so I lost respect for "law enforcement" years ago. And my own recent experience, which I have posted at PJM, of being the victim of a serious hit-and-run accident by an illegal who fled the scene, returned while I was being treated, and who was then released free to go (sans license, insurance, registration) by the sympathetic cop after she admitted her (il)legal status, has not changed my opinion of "law enforcement."
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"they killed him for an 8 dollar ticket"

No, they killed him to prove who's in CHARGE...

And THAT my friend, is PRICELESS.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
What a joke this hearing was, what a waste of time.
They do NOT need Federal Funding to "train" local officers in common effing sense.

Douche Bag Durban says "“Law enforcement did not ask for this additional challenge but it was forced upon them,”

Baloney. You go into Law Enforcement, you deal with the PUBLIC...And that means ALL of it, including people with dementia, the blind, the deaf, and those in the middle of diabetic shock, etc, etc, etc…

ALL OF WHOM have been recently shot, tasered, beaten and killed by “Law Enforcement” because these Pigs can no longer THINK.

40 years ago, a GOOD COP would have realized this person was “retarded”. A GOOD COP would have had pity for a grown “child” who could not comprehend the “trouble” he was causing by staying for a second show …

And to satisfy the Theater Managers complaint, a GOOD COP would have offered to pay for the extra ticket HIMSELF while waiting for the Mom to arrived.

His Common Sense and Wise Professionalism would have won out over any Juvenile sense of “Authority” boiling within him to avoid a CERTAIN, pointless, ugly public ruckus over a measly few dollars….

“Sir, if youre concerned about his potential behavior, would you be willing to let his mom stay and watch the rest of the show with him to keep him calm? Then she’ll take him home? Rather than dragging him out now? Would that work for you?”

“Ma’am, do you think he’ll be OK to get through the rest of the picture if you're here?”

And go from there. No Spectacle, no Loud Commands, no Force, no Violence.

In other words, a GOOD COP would have HANDLED IT …like a Pro, like a Responsible, Level Headed, Trustworthy and Wise Public Servant…

The kind we aren’t AFRAID to call, when we need a little help with an occasional “situation” that calls for a Voice of REASON as well as AUTHORITY.

But not any more.

Today, Cops = Death, over the most trivial of matters.

And they deserve nothing but contempt because of it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems as if these days these "militarized" cops champ at the bit to work people over. They are hammers & everything around them is a nail. I cannot imagine why they could not wait for this guy's mother to get there.

I cannot imagine either how that GJ came to the conclusion that those cops were not in the wrong; whatever happened to the concept of excessive force? I hope their souls rot in hell for all eternity for what they did to this guy.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope their souls rot in hell for all eternity for what they did to this guy"

I'm not willing to wait that long....a random act of violence that lets them rot on a roadside TODAY, would be more of my liking
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
That'd be fine with me too.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a shame most of the actual facts were left out of this "story". I thought I was at CNN for a second. Any idea why the "indict a ham sandwich" grand jury gave them a pass? Maybe it was the 30 eyeball witnesses that pretty starkly contradict the story here? How long did the cops spend trying to get him to leave? 20 minutes? And, yes, a free ticket was offered if he would have just sat there instead of screaming and swinging at patrons and security guards. Maybe, in hindsight, it was not such a good idea to take a mental 8-year-old to a seriously violent R-rated movie? The three sets of cuffs were daisy-chained together to prevent his hands being too tight behind his back, to prevent suffocating from being on his stomach. Yes, this is a very well-known problem. Did anyone mention that he actually died in an ambulance, not in the theater as noted in the article? Oh, and Ethan's minder was waiting in her car for most of this - so I'm not sure how she knows what happened.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems to me that these deputies could have waited it out as Ethan's caretaker suggested. They all knew he was sensitive to touch, as she pointed out to them all. It was a bad situation & those deputies (AWA the theater's manager) just made it worse. There was a sense of urgency on their part that just was not necessary, IMO. If they had just left well enough alone the guy would doubtless not have lost his life.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, please you ignorant fool....

Discretion is the Better side of Valor my friend…among the Mature and the Level-Headed it is known that sometimes just BACKING OFF for a moment will calm things down far better than pressing the issue…

Particularly when, say, dealing with with a mentally challenged person having an "episode"? Good God, doesn’t every REASONABLE PERSON know that "retards" arent exactly the best at handling stress, following ordrer shouted at them, demanding compliance to things, and for reasons, they just dont understand?

So why escalate the matter? For your own ego? To prove who’s in charge?

Any REASONABLE PERSON would have told Security “oh, shush, I’ll pay for his ticket, stop making such a fuss, you’re only making it worse” and that SHOULD have been the end of it.

If “30 people” were able to “witness” this spectacle unfold, that tells me something about how LONG and how FAR they were willing to push this person, to MAKE a criminal matter out of it instead of SOLVING it like RESPONSIBLE people would have done....

Because sometimes, JUDGEMENT is actually whats required, and screaming "I have the authority, I have the authority!" is more of the PROBLEM than the SOLUTION.

And lastly, as for the Grand Jury NOT indicting the cops for excessive force, that’s easy….their “use of force” guidelines don’t have to be reasonable, or logical, or justified to any particular circumstance, or demand common sense from an officer…

Its NOT the Grand Juries job to decide if the rules “make any sense”, it is ONLY their job to decide if the police STAYED WITHIN them or not….and since most “use of force” guidelines permit an endless escalation of violence to gain “compliance” to whatever the officer desires no matter how unreasonable (like demanding a mouthy soccer mom lie face down on wet roadway over a seatbelt infraction she objected to) they can KILL you for not listening to them.

Basically, anything short of a bullet to the back of the head while handcuffed to a chair is allowed by most “use of force” rules, so it is no surprise that IN MOST CASES of obvious, unnecessary police brutality, there is no indictment.

….so whats your point?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Arrogant. jack-booted thugs piss me off to no end.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The minimum should be life without parole.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kill a man over a fricking movie ticket? Really? SMH.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a mother of a son with Down's Syndrome, please note the apostrophe "s." Down was the name of the researcher who identified the syndrome.

Beyond that, this is horrible. My son would not have understood why he was being detained and would have fought back. Probably would have ended up the same. Why was he unattended? Probably to give him a feeling of normalcy. An adult with Down's Syndrome still wants to feel like an adult. And I agree, $8 for a movie ticket and they couldn't wait for the mom to get there who probably would have happily paid the $8. Or just taken him home. At a time when we are trying to indict, for murder, persons who protect their home and family from criminals, we go, with "take no prisoner" attitudes, after people with obvious disabilities, limited language capabilities and understanding. And let the criminals run free, all with benefits and cell phones provided by us, the taxpayers. So sad and as a mom, frightening. How do I allow my son a semblance of normalcy if the outside world gives him no leeway? So I, and many of my parental cohorts, continue to shield our children from the ugly world out there. And leave them feeling as children forever.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
"train police in handling individuals with disabilities."

Meaning, training them how look at people as human and not like anyone who is not a cop is a criminal.

30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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